Whether you think the Bugatti Veyron is the pinnacle of sports car development or agree with Professor Gordon Murray that it's the "most pointless exercise on the planet", we all somehow seem drawn to the name and its continuing outrageous deeds. This week saw another milestone for the marque with the unveiling of the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse. It's the roadster version of the world's fastest car, which makes it the world's fastest roadster at 410 km/h (255 mph ), though in real life it will be limited to 375 km/h (233 mph).
One of the Grand Sport Vitesse's features is a new roof spoiler that significantly reduces wind noise and buffeting in the interior. There will also be a new windbreak that can be stored away in the luggage compartment when not in use. Used together, they allow "extremely relaxed, open-top driving even at speeds of around 200 km/h (124 mph)."
Let's quickly recount a bit of history to put it all in perspective.
The original Bugatti Veyron 16.4 entered series production in November 2005 after more than a year of PR build-up.
The engine was and remains, without question, an automotive engineering masterpiece.
The Bugatti engine has 16 cylinders, eight camshafts, four turbochargers and 64 valves. The cylinders are arranged in a W16 engine formation - the engine is essentially two four liter, narrow-angle V8s, displacing 7.9 liters in total and producing 987 horsepower in its original version.
Everything about the Veyron had to be extra strong to carry the immense loads, and you could spend hours studying the cleverness of each and every component, none moreso than the 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) system developed by Ricardo specifically for the Veyron.
The Veyron quickly proved to be the fastest production car in history, running an average 406 km/h (252.2 mph), it topped 400 km/h (248.5 mph) for the first time with a production car, and added a whopping 20 km/h (12.4 mph) to the record.
The previous record had been held by the Koenigsegg CCR which ran 387.87 km/h (241.01 mph) to take the record from the McLaren F1.
The McLaren F1 had run 391 km/h (243 mph) with a naturally-aspirated car in 1998 and held the record for seven years.
The Bugatti was also the most expensive series production car in the world, and even managed to become responsible for the world's most expensive speeding ticket.
A roadster version followed, dubbed the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport, becoming the world's fastest open top car, being capable of traveling at 360 km/h (223.6 mph) with the roof off, and 407 km/h (253 mph) with it closed.
Then, in 2007, Shelby Super Cars (SSC) Ultimate Aero TT claimed the world record for a production car with an average 256.15 mph (412.2 km/h) over two runs. The 1183 bhp, twin-turbo V8 Ultimate Aero TT had become the world's fastest production car.
The new 1200 bhp Veyron 16.4 Super Sport responded to SSC to reclaim the record for Bugatti, pushing it to 431.072 km/h (267.86 mph). Adding nearly 20 km/h to a world speed record, after 120 years of human endeavor in the field - a gargantuan achievement.
The car unveiled in Geneva this week was the roadster version of the Veyron Super Sport, named the Grand Sport Vitesse, and it runs the full 882 kW (1,200 hp) 7.9 liter W16 engine. The Grand Sport Vitesse produces 1,500 Nm of torque between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm - a once-in-a-lifetime experience available at whim.
The acceleration figures are awesome - 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 2.6 seconds and capable of a top speed of 410 km/h (255 mph), though unless you can convince Bugatti you're doing top speed runs on a closed circuit, it will remain electronically limited to 375 km/h (233 mph).
The motor is close to identical to the Super Sport engine, getting its extra 200 horsepower (compared to the original Veyron) by using four larger turbochargers and new intercoolers, though the gearing has been altered in the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DSG).
Perhaps the most enlightening aspect of the Grand Sport Vitesse unveiling was the degree of effort the factory is going to in order to create truly individual cars, plus the extraordinary price of such exclusivity.
One recent stand-out from Bugatti was the L'Or Blanc, which was created in cooperation with Berlin-based porcelain makers Königlichen Porzellan-Manufaktur. Bugatti is currently working on further unusual ways to individualize the Grand Sport.
Several different versions of the Vitesse were on display, each customized from the vast palette of colors, finishes and materials available.
Bugatti used the launch of the Vitesse to demonstrate a new trick - colored carbon fiber. By using colored carbon cloth instead of Henry Ford Black, the visible weave offers a semi-transparent gleam in a certain light. It looks great, and I am certain we'll see a lot more of this in the near future as designers everywhere realize the possibilities.
The first version of the Vitesse was painted in dark "Jet Grey." I will use the exact wording from the press release for the description: "Instead of two colors, this model uses an interaction between shiny areas (lids, roof and air scoop) and matte surfaces and elements (side parts, exterior mirrors and door handles). The radiator grill and wheel rims have been painted black."
"The orange underside of the rear wing matches the "Tangerine" coloring that Bugatti has used, for example, for the seats, the carpets, the underside of dashboard, the door edging, the contrasting stitching and the Vitesse labeling in the interior."
"All other surfaces, including the carbon parts, are black. In both cases, the aggressive, dynamic look of the vehicles fits in with the positioning of the new Grand Sport Vitesse."
Its price is EUR 1.75 million euros (approx US$2.31 million).
The second Grand Sport (not a Vitesse) on display at Geneva used the aforementioned carbon weave coloring technology to give all the carbon parts (lids, rear end, front spoiler and side skirting) a brown shimmer in an almost bronze shade depending on how the light falls.
Once more from the press blurb, "To create a contrast, the side parts on this Grand Sport, right up to the rear air intakes, are made from polished aluminum. The interior of the sports car, with "Gaucho" colored leather and coffee-colored stitching, complements the exterior."
It costs 1.79 million euros (US$2.36 million).
The second of the two Grand Sport Vitesse models that Bugatti is exhibiting at the 2012 Geneva International Motor Show uses a blue version of the visible carbon fiber.
The press statement describes the car thus: "The upper area of the body is finished in 'Blue Carbon' while the roof area and air scoops are 'Lake Blue.'"
"The lower body panels (side skirting, front spoiler, radiator grill frame and rear apron with diffuser), the inner surfaces of the wheel rims and the underside of the automatically extending rear spoiler are in 'Light Blue Sport,' which has a hint of turquoise. The exterior colors are picked up again in the interior. "
"While the large surfaces feature dark blue tones, 'New Light Blue' is used for the contrasting stitching and the Vitesse labelling on the seats."
This Vitesse version costs 1.91 million euros (US$2.52 million).
One final point. The original Grand Sport will remain in the range.